SOAS University of London

Department of History

H478 Violence, Identity & Politics in Modern East and Northeast Africa (II)

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year
This is the companion course to ‘Violence, identity and politics in modern east and northeast Africa (I)’, and will involve students writing an Extended Essay of 10,000 words. The Extended Essay will be on a topic to be agreed between the student and the course convenor, and will involve study of primary source materials in English, and / or those which have been translated (or in the original language if the student is able to read it). The Extended Essay may only be done by a student who is taking part (1) concurrently and if a student chooses to do both parts (1) and (2), they may only be taken in the student’s final year.


  • This Module is capped at 15 places.
  • Students  enrol via the on-line Module Sign-Up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Faculty Office

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  • Understand the ways in which eastern African violence has been interpreted and conceptualised, by both scholars and contemporary observers.
  • Appreciate the role played by warfare and militarism in shaping eastern African politics in the modern era, here defined as the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • Evaluate the nature of the relationship between violence, culture and identity in the eastern African context.
  • Understand the economics of African warfare during the era of the slave trade and beyond.
  • Assess the significance of the military aspects of European colonial rule, in political and socio-economic spheres.
  • Assess the degree to which modern conflict in the region is the result of ‘unfinished business’ from before the onset of colonial rule.
  • Make informed judgements about the causes and effects of eastern African violence in the modern era.
  • Critically engage with historical arguments, both orally and in writing, and be able to analyse primary and secondary sources.
  • In the second (II) part of the course, students are required to further familiarise themselves with some of the problems of, and methods involved in, using primary sources.

Scope and syllabus

This course will explore the relationship between violence, militarism, identity and politics in east and northeast Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The focus will be on a series of zones across the region which will act as case studies highlighting the ways in which violence and conflict have influenced economy, society and polity in the modern era. These ‘corridors of conflict’ will include the Ethiopian-Eritrean highlands, the western lacustrine zone, the Kenyan rift valley and northwest Tanzania. 

The course will examine civil and interstate war, and the formation of militaristic identities, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the impact of European invasion and the socio-political impact of service in colonial armies; and anti-colonial uprising and armed liberation struggle. 

The key themes, to be addressed throughout, will include the relationship between violence and culture; external perceptions of African violence; the social and economic consequences of war and military service; and the nature and implications of the military in government, in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial era. 

Each lecture will be followed by a seminar in which discussion will be based around primary sources and / or secondary literature.

Method of assessment

100% Coursework (10,000 word Essay).

Suggested reading


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